The 70th Cy-Hawk meeting has the potential to be one of the hardest-fought battles between these two bitter rivals in recent history. On Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium, coach Matt Campbell and coach Kirk Ferentz will trot out two elite defenses and two offenses with much to prove.
“The credit you give Iowa so much is their ability to play good defense, they have been nothing short of exceptional on that side of the football,” Coach Campbell said about Iowa’s defense in Tuesday’s press conference. “I think in some ways a little bit like us, they know who they are, and they know where their help is, and they are going to play really hard and physical.”
Despite all the concerns regarding Iowa State this season, one consistent factor in the Cyclones’ success with Campbell has been the defense. Jon Heacock’s squad carried Iowa State to a 30-9 victory over the Northern Iowa Panthers last week. Holding an NFL-caliber quarterback in Theo Day to just 164 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Picking off Day both times was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Jeremiah Cooper. The Clones’ secondary will have another tough task at hand with senior Michigan transfer quarterback, Cade McNamara.
“Respect factor that you have for a young man that has had the success in college football that Cade has had. You can tell he is very smart, intelligent and his players believe in him,” Campbell said. “I think this will be another great challenge.”
McNamara showcased his talent against Utah State guiding the Hawks to a 24-14 victory last week, throwing for over 190 yards and two touchdowns. The offense was held in check for most of the second half leaving Iowa fans with a bitter-sweet feeling in their guts after seeming to roll down the field with ease in the first quarter to then being stagnant the rest of the game. The experience McNamara possesses with playing in the 2021 College Football Playoffs, makes him an elite threat.
What we know going into the game, is that both defenses are elite and have NFL potential athletes on both sides. The Cyclones rank first in the nation in holding 16 consecutive opponents to fewer than 400 yards of total offense. The team behind them, of course, is the Iowa Hawkeyes with 15. One thing both Cyclone and Hawkeye fans can be worried about is how will their new quarterbacks adjust to the talented defenses.
Iowa State was led by redshirt freshman Rocco Becht who was poised and consistent under center. He threw for 113 yards, completing 10 of 13 while notching two passing and one rushing touchdown. The offense for Iowa State will rely on Becht not necessarily to make plays, but to protect the ball. Campbell did not throw out the idea of playing both Becht and true freshman quarterback JJ Kohl this weekend. Kohl completed just four passes for three yards, on top of rushing three times for 22 yards. The key to the Clones’ success will fall in the hands of their healthy tight ends. Against UNI, Cyclone tight ends combined for 81 of the team’s 116 total passing yards including both receiving touchdowns.
This has the feeling that whoever has the ball last will win. Last year, Iowa State struggled in close games, losing six one-score matches. The Cyclones will have an opportunity to flip the script and win their second straight against the Hawkeyes (first time since 2011-12) and could start 2-0 for the second consecutive season.